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Your Guide to a Sterile Processing Technician Career

Occupation Guide: Sterile Processing Technician

Whether you’re looking for a new career – or have recently graduated from high school – allied health careers are excellent choices for many Americans. This goes double for the sterile processing technician field, which offers flexible working hours, plenty of upward mobility, and quick entry into the healthcare sector.

Signing up for a sterile processing certification program is the first step towards an exciting career in the healthcare field. Read our step-by-step career guide to explain what it entails, the opportunities that exist, and the easiest ways to get started in this growing field.

What Is a Sterile Processing Technician?

If you’ve never heard about this job title before, it might sound a little mysterious. This is actually one of the most important positions in the healthcare industry. There are a variety of names for sterile processing techs (SPTs), depending on where they work and the specifics of their job description:

  • certified registered central service technician
  • sterile processing and distribution technician
  • sterilization technician
  • sterile instrument technician
  • medical instrument technician
  • central sterile technician

Job Description

No matter the job title, you’ll be in charge of instrument and medical device decontamination, organization, and packaging. The main goal of your job is to prevent the spread of infection by ensuring that all instruments are disease-free.

Your day might start with packaging or transporting sterilized equipment. When instruments come in, you’ll clean tools in an autoclave and check for equipment for damage.

It’s not all about cleaning though: Throughout the day, you’ll record everything you do and keeping track of any apparatus deliveries you make. Only then can the equipment be distributed to exam and operating rooms.

Where Can Sterile Processing Techs Find Work?

Where Can Sterile Processing Techs Find Work?

Looking for a fast-paced work environment that doesn’t require continuous customer interaction? Sterile processing might be a great career choice. Working largely on your own, you’ll operate equipment, move carts, and keep daily logs.

Even though you don’t have to work directly with patients, you may occasionally see some blood or bodily fluids. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn about (and handle) many types of equipment.

After completing your sterile processing technician training, here are a plethora of places you can work in this field. Hospitals, dentists, outpatient care centers, specialty care centers, and ambulatory services centers all employ these allied health workers.

Anywhere that medical equipment is used, there’s a need to have it properly handled by central sterile technicians. There are even companies that specialize in this particular function.

What Hours Does a Sterile Technician Work?

Sterilization technician positions can offer flexible working hours (from nights and weekends to weekdays), however, the exact shift requirements vary based on the type of facility. If you’re employed in a dentist’s office, it’s unlikely that you’ll work over holidays.

A hospital will probably have evening and overnight shifts available. Since there are so many places to find work, you should be able to find the schedule that is the best fit for you.

Sterile Processing Technician Salary

Sterile Processing Technician Salary

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average sterile processing tech salary was about $36,240 in 2018. This is excellent for an entry-level position that doesn’t have direct patient contact and has a predictable working environment. What’s more, you’re encouraged to use your organizational, critical thinking, and troubleshooting skills while working independently.

Sterile Processing Technician Career Outlook

According to The Atlantic, the healthcare industry is the largest employer in the US. The requirement for sterile processing techs is projected to grow 10% to 14% between 2016 and 2026. Much of this comes down to a rapidly aging Baby Boomer generation.

The growth of the entire industry – and the demand for medical instrument preppers – makes this a fantastic career option.

Room for Advancement

We know you’re looking for a career (not just a job), which means that there’s plenty of room for advancement over time. As a processing technician, you can work your way up to a sterile processing supervisor, which comes with a fairly significant raise. According to Glassdoor the average salary for a supervisor is $52,526. You can also branch out and become a surgical tech.

Steps to Becoming a Sterile Processing Technician

To get started on your way to becoming a sterile processing tech, you’ll need a high school diploma or GED. This will make you eligible to enroll in one of the many community colleges or technical schools across the country.

Program lengths vary but they tend to require anywhere from ten weeks to two years, though most are between 4 to 8 months. Be sure the school is accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

Apply to a Sterile Processing Technician Training Program

To apply to a SPT program, you’ll need to submit an application, provide the required admission documents, and possibly take a standardized test (e.g. Wonderlic, ACCUPLACER) to showcase your ability to succeed in your future program.

What You’ll Learn in Your SPT Courses

During the program you’ll study:

  • Sterilization methods
  • Surgical terminology
  • Infection control
  • Human anatomy
  • Microbiology
  • Surgical instrumentation
  • Safety and risk control

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In addition to classroom time, you’ll be required to complete a clinical internship to gain some practical experience. When applying for jobs, your education and experience will set you apart from inexperienced applicants.

Why Get Your Sterile Processing Technician Certification?

Sterile Processing Technician Course

While SPT certification isn’t required in all states, some require a certification from the International Association of Healthcare Central Service Material Management (IAHCSMM) or the Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution (CBSPD).

Even in states where certification isn’t required, it makes your application for employment far more competitive.

IAHCSMM Certification Requirements

IAHCSMM offers several certification tests including Certified Instrument Specialist (CIS), Certified Endoscope Reprocessor (CER), and Certified Registered Central Service Technician (CRCST).

The first certification you’ll want to sit for is the CRCST, as it’s required to take the other two tests, which are specializations. The CRCST calls for 12 continuing education credits per year in order to renew your certification.

The CRCST will show your knowledge, skills, and capabilities as a sterile processing technician. You must have 400 hours of hands-on experience and pass an exam to gain this certification.

Certification Board for Sterile Processing and Distribution Requirements

The CBSPD offers the SPD Certification Exam, which is valid for 5 years. To take the exam, you need to meet one of the following qualifications:

  • Successful completion of a SPT training course with a grade of 70 or better.
  • 12 months of employment (either part-time or full-time) in a position that performs sterile processing duties.
  • 12 months of work in healthcare product services/sales associated with the sterile processing profession.
  • 6 months in a similar allied healthcare profession (full or part-time), part of which must include sterile processing activities.

Find a Sterile Processing Technician School Near You

While SPT programs are taught at hundreds of schools across the country, it’s advisable to do your research. Visit a few campuses and speak with admissions specialists who can answer all of your questions. Make sure that your school has been accredited by a recognized accrediting agency.

If you’re in the New Jersey area, contact one of our advisors to discover more about our Sterile Processing Technician training program.

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20 thoughts on “Your Guide to a Sterile Processing Technician Career

  • Patricia says:

    trying to find a school in Orlando Florida area. But seems to not have a school for sterile processing. what other steps can i go thank u

  • Jackie Triola says:

    I have to be certified I was in the field for 18 years I have 2 credits from Shriners Hospital can I just take the test to become certified

    • Yusra says:

      Yes, I just took the test to become certified as well. I ordered the books from Iahcsmm, studied, test and found employment as a central service tech

  • Stanley Thompson says:

    My husband has worked as a Sterile Processing Technician in Providence Hospital in Anchorage, Alaska. He never got certified, so I guess he needs to know if he should take classes or just try and take the exam?

  • […] Bring your academic records along, and be prepared to answer a few personal questions about why you’ve chosen to become a sterile processing tech. After building their skill sets and gaining necessary work experience, a move into the surgical […]

  • Zenaida Rivera says:

    I am currently looking for a school or class that I can attend in Dallas Tx. For Cerified Board for Sterile processing & Distribution.

  • Melisa Rider says:

    I have a Reregistered Medical Assisting Degree, an Associates Degree in Allied Health Sciences, and Bachelors Degree in Public Health Sciences…. Is there any way I could be hired with these for a sterile processing tech?

    • kamlesh mangukiya says:

      hii mam
      i am from india
      i want your help about this certificat course
      can u help me mam ?
      now i am doing clinical practice in india, but i want more study in some certificate course like sterile proccesing technician so, plz mam help me and give me guidence for what i do for forword study

  • A says:

    Is ashworth college online a good school for this

    • ANDREA says:

      I was wondering the same thing about Ashworth College

      • Kim says:

        Make sure Ashworth will assist in finding an internship at a hospital once your online course is complete. I went with a community technical college because they place you in a hospital for 5 months of clinical experience…..The on hands instruction is just as critical as the classroom/book instruction.

  • Kala Brown says:

    I am looking for a school in nj

  • Sephire says:

    Looking for a hospital or clinic in Dallas, Texas that does on the job training and certification of sterilization tech

  • Stacey Lynn says:

    Are the online classes from these schools ok to do if there no school in the area? When it comes to getting a job later. Is this an issue in this field?

  • Rhonda Bayer says:

    I am looking for training /certification for sterile processing in bishop ca area.

  • Nicole says:

    My son was just certified in California in June and can’t find work because the only experience he has his his externship. Any suggestions on where or how to find work?

  • Anne Minehart says:

    Hello, I am just wondering if there is there a good school for training and certification in Minneapolis, Minnesota area? I have already gone to school for Medical Billing and Coding and also have about 7-8 months of Surgical Technician classes/lab but for personal reasons had to withdraw.

  • Sarah Cool says:

    Do they sit or stand for their jobs?

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